Preparing soldiers for battlefield horrors

Xtreme Simulations  photo: PR

Body parts, bloodand smoke: Extreme Simulations' technology unsparingly evokes the sights, smells and sounds of combat.

For the men of the special force from the IDF's new commando division, the scenario they were confronted with was not inconceivable: another operation in a Palestinian village, something goes wrong, someone fires at the force from an ambush and then straight after the first fusillade, a powerful explosive device goes off.

The search and rescue team called to the site encounters the horrifying sights many Israelis know from combat theaters and terrorist attacks: bodies of those killed, large numbers of casualties wounded to various degrees. Meanwhile, exchanges of fire continue, the sounds of gunfire blend with the criesof bleeding wounded, acrid smoke, smells, general confusion and the stress of of the incident. There is no time to waste; for some of the casualties a medic's quick decision-making will be the difference between life and death.

This 'incident' took place last week in at the Tze'elim base, when a group of soldiers from the IDF Commando Division underwent a first-of-its-kind training session using unique props developed by the small startup Extreme Simulations. These props bring home to simulation participants what they will see, feel and experience in a real operation: casualties with severed limbs, body parts strewn around, burns, and casualties lying in pools of blood. "This 'incident' was the closest thing to the real combat situation these soldiers will encounter in the field," says one of the startup's entrepreneurs, Jonathan Bahat, a reserve lieutenant colonel who served in combat rolesin the Golani Brigade and several elite units and who saw a thing or two during his service: "After such an exercise, the preparedness of combat soldiers for such a scenario, which we all hope never takes place, will be better."

Extreme Simulations was founded last summer, and its business isbased on a line of products that help simulate, very closely, a wide variety of injuries and wounds for drills and exercises of military forces and security agencies, as well as medical and first aid teams. These are wearable props, some of which are equipped with smart systems that provide physiological indications such as pulse and blood pressure of the simulated casualty, enabling the medic in the field to see in real time, during training, whether the tourniquet he applied to a soldier simulating a severed hand did indeed stop the blood flow and save the casualty. The indicators of the simulated casualty will be displayed to the medic on a tablet or a smartphone, using a special application, in a way that makes it possible to challenge him with extreme situations.

Extreme Simulations is developing and producing its props in a studio it set up in the UK, while the technology that it integrates into them is developed in Israel. The company's simulation products, which are in advanced patenting stages, include a training system for one simulated casualty with a remote-controlled blood pump, wearable sleeves for simulated casualties which mimic a wide range of injuries: from burns to amputation. Some of these sleeves enable simulation of an incident with multiple casualties from gunfire, stab wounds, bleeding stumps and deep wounds. The faint of heart should keep their distance.

"Beyond drilling the type and nature of medical aid provided to the simulated casualties, these systems enable trainees to contend with the mental aspect of this situation by enabling training to simulate a real incident as closely as possible," says Bahat, "Training of combatants and medical staff up to now has not dealt with the psychological aspects of the factors in this or that scenario, such as authentic sights, and have not make it possible to provide the feel and experience of a real incident."

In the exercise, Extreme Simulations staged at Tze'elim, for the soldiers of the Commando Division special unit, they tried to bring the trainees as close as possible to what they will experience during a real incident that they might one day encounter. They chose to forego sterility and make the experience realistic by using effects simulating smoke, sounds of gunfire, noise over the communications network, securing of search and rescue forces and medics; they even used the smells of blood, smoke and scorched flesh.

"These props could also be very helpful for rescue services, which could map their needs taking into account numerous possible scenarios. They could prepare for real events on the basis of the results of exercises and the quality of the treatment provided to simulated casualties. These same props are also helpful in making decisions in cases in which there are doubts on whether to evacuate the casualty for medical treatment in a hospital using a road vehicle or a helicopter. In the exercise we conducted at Tze'elim, we also had a scenario in which a tourniquet applied to a casualty's stump slipped during an evacuation and a new tourniquet was required. In such a case, the casualty's evacuation is delayed, whilegunfire continues in the background during the entire time, since this is a combat zone."

Fear leftout of the picture

Bahat says that there is one thing thatthese training props cannot provide: "It is difficult to convey the real feeling of fear on the battlefield, even using such advanced simulations. With all the visualizations, all the props and all the intentional confusion we created in other to present as many challenges to the soldiers as possible - they still know that this is a drill, which leaves fear out of the picture."

The managers of this intriguing startup have already presented some of the training props they have developed to representatives of security, search and rescue and first aid services, as well as the directors of the Israel Center for Medical Simulation (MSR) at Sheba Hospital, Tel Hashomer, a center used to train civilian and military medical teams.

Extreme Simulations has recently begun raising $2 million for the completion of its technological developments and the production of physical simulators. The company's managers say that it might start marketing its props in Israel and overseas as early as 2017.

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - - on November 22, 2016

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2016

Xtreme Simulations  photo: PR
Xtreme Simulations photo: PR
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